Grocery stores limit quantities to help fight shortages, hoarding

This week, Sanpete grocery stores are seeing a more measured response to limited quantities of necessities following last week’s panic blitz buyout of toilet paper, cleaning and medical products, disinfectants and other staples.

There is still some hoarding going on, probably more than there should be. On Monday, the writer was in a store and saw four men with carts, going down a frozen food aisle, taking all the hash browns off the shelf, then on to the next shelf, which they cleaned off as well.

When asked if they were students buying for roommates, they said, “No, we’re just hungry.” Actually, they were hoarding.

That scenario defines the problem. When people are afraid there won’t be enough for future needs, the urge to panic and overbuy compels them to buy more than their fair share. That creates shortages, which panics more people, and the cycle continues.

The solution is to once again go back to buying what is needed on a routine basis, not trying to stockpile food for multiple weeks. A two-week supply seems reasonable, but usually not more than that. If supplies are not able to keep up with demand, the next step will be escalating prices, so those in poorer income brackets will not even be able to meet their current food needs.

The four main grocery outlets in Sanpete have all taken steps to help prevent panic buying, even though all stores have some blank shelves and can’t keep up with demand in some areas.

Walmart has shortened regular hours at the Ephraim store to 7 a.m. to 8:30 p.m., thus giving Walmart associates more time to stock shelves and for enhanced cleaning and sanitizing. Also, special store hours have been set aside just for seniors, 60 and older, from 6-7 a.m. on Tuesdays, from March 24 through April 28. The vision center and pharmacy will also be open during this time for seniors.

To promote responsible buying and avoid shortages caused by hoarding, the following items are restricted to one item per family: paper items (including toilet paper), hand sanitizer, cleaning supplies, disinfectant, water, flour, sugar, diapers, wipes, alcohol and hydrogen peroxide.

The manager of Terrel’s Thriftway in Mt. Pleasant, Blake Rosenlof said, “Last week was crazy, of course, when all the toilet paper and cleaning supplies vanished. Now, except for snacks, we are trying to limit items to two per customer. Toilet paper and paper products, flour and yeast are limited to one per customer,” Rosenlof said, “This week has been different, and most people have been receptive to quantity limits and are respecting the need to leave sufficient for their neighbors and the community on the shelves.”

Manti Market Fresh has a similar policy. Owner Tyler Merrill said, “We’re having limits of two items per customer of all items except produce, until people get back on their feet.”

“This week people are trying to figure out what they need to have food for two weeks,” Jeremy Vincent, manager of Gunnison Valley Thriftway, said, “And we are seeing lots and lots of customers, but we are not seeing what would be called hoarding going on this week.”

Hoarding will probably not be stopped by mandate, but must be stopped one person at a time, deciding to take care of their families and being responsible to their community as well.